09 June 2011

Night Life: Entertaining in the Garden

“If a June night could talk it would probably boast that it invented romance.”
— Bern Williams

Summer officially arrives in less than two weeks - on June 21 at 5:16 pm, to be exact.  At this moment, the earth's axial tilt is inclined at its most towards the sun.  This is the longest day of the year.  Here in central/north Alberta, we are noticing and enjoying the lovely long evenings.  It's the perfect time to enjoy the garden, sit around a fire (when fire bans permit, that is), and just hang out.  As a family we love to enjoy the garden in the evening, to stay up on weekends and star gaze, sit by a cozy fire, and enjoy the gentle splash of the water fall.  

How can one enhance this experience?

1.  Plants.  I deliberately planted mock orange, snow in summer, hydrangea, white peonies, and Morden Blush roses for evening enjoyment.  The peony doesn't have much scent in the evening but the large white blossoms of Festiva Maxima mirror any light, brightening their spot in the garden.  The other flowers do the same, but the mock orange (Galahad Mock Orange) scents the air with a sweet orange blossom which reminds my kids not only of oranges but cotton candy. I would still like to add some Henrii clematis for their large white blossoms, and another mock orange (perhaps Minnesota Snowflake or Blizzard) with double blossoms near the deck.  If planting for scent, try the annual night scented stock (mathiola), heliotrope, evening primrose (pretty, but a spreader), annual alyssum, datura (angel's trumpet* caution - very poisonous), honeysuckle vines, nicotiana.  Some plants release their pollen at night thus attracting nocturnal pollinators, like moths.

Think light coloured flowers and foliage to brighten the garden at night.

2.  Think heat.  Sure you can add a chiminea or a firepit for that special ambience in the garden, but for effective heat on those chilly nights, try a patio heater.  Once only available commercially, now consumers have easy access to these propane powered heaters that are intended to heat a small area, like your patio.  A warm area in the garden or on the patio can extend your entertaining hours.

3.  Solar lighting.  Years ago our son, M, installed a nice little system that consists of a small (8" square, maybe) panel which is wired to a set of four lights.  The sets we have are intended to spotlight features within the yard.  We have a few focused on the waterfall and pond, one on a large rock by the pond, and some uplight a couple trees.  We also have a couple sets of solar powered lights which consist of a single lamp on a peg with a built-in solar panel.  Both sets have incredible longevity, as we've had them for several years now.

4.  Another thing to consider would be mosquito repellant.  While you can apply it directly to yourself. there are other means of keeping the pests at bay.  Try a few citronella plants in your entertaining area.  These work best if they are located so they will be brushed against which will release the citronella fragrance and oils.  You may also try floating citronella candles.  Take my word for it and shut off the waterfall before placing them in the pond. :0  Also available are citronella candles which can be sited in lanterns for safety.  I've heard also that tiki torches help in keeping mosquitos at bay, though I have never tried it.

Now, if we could only control the weather, we would certainly entertain outdoors more!


Arija said...

Have you considered perennial white Phlox? It releases it's best scent at dusk and just about glows in the dark.

Your garden is a joy to the senses and I look in quite often just as often blogger strikes at my leaving a comment. Today I was just lucky.

Melanie said...

What a lovely picture you paint of enjoying the garden in the evening with scented flowers and a firepit. We built a firepit last weekend. Now for the landscaping . I'm hoping the smoke from the fire will keep the mosquitos away. I've never found citronella geranium or citronella candles did the job. They smell nice though. :)

Shirley said...

Actually Arija, I have grown perennial phlox David for the last few years and forgot to mention it. Thanks for the reminder. This last winter must have been too harsh, as neither of the phlox came back.

Shirley said...

Melanie, I understand you need a lot of citronella plants and they need to be where you can brush against them to release the oils. We had customers at the greenhouse who swore by them. I don't think I ever had enough of them at one time to make a difference.

Thanks for your comment. Have fun designing your garden!!

Rambling Woods said...

Those are wonderful suggestions..I am enjoying the fireflies that dance across the pond...


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